Study suggests people with narcissistic tendencies are more likely to adopt certain love styles

Different dimensions of narcissism are associated with different attitudes toward love, according to new research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. The findings shed new light on how narcissistic personality traits are related to interpersonal relationships.

“While people with more pronounced antagonistic and antisocial traits, e.g. psychopathy and sadism, clearly show toxic social behaviors, with narcissism the story is somewhat different,” said study author Bojana Dinić, an associate professor at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia.

“Narcissistic persons can be very charming and likable at first, they can delight us and seduce us, they can be interesting and funny, mysterious and exciting. However, in long-term relationships, their true nature comes out and we remain to wonder whether it is the same person from the beginning of our relationship. Furthermore, narcissism can take many forms and we wanted to explore whether all forms are related to one particular love style, or there is some diversity depending on the narcissism type.”

In the study, 347 participants completed three different psychological assessments of narcissistic personality traits. They also completed the Love Attitude Scale, which measures six different attitudes toward love: Eros (or passionate love), Ludus (or game-playing love), Storge (or friendship love), Pragma (or practical love), Mania (or possessive love), and Agape (or altruistic love). About 66% of the participants were in a relationship and about 7% were married, while the rest were single.

“The common characteristic of all kinds of narcissistic love is mania, characterized by possessiveness, obsession, and jealousy,” Dinić told PsyPost. In other words, more narcissistic individuals were more likely to agree with statements such as “If my lover ignores me for a while, I sometimes do stupid things to get his/ her attention back” and “Sometimes I get so excited about being in love that I can’t sleep.”

“However, narcissism comes with many forms,” Dinić noted, and the researchers found that different facets of narcissism were related to different love styles.

“The more pathological aspect of narcissism, i.e. narcissism rivalry (an antagonistic aspect of narcissism referring to self-protection and self-defense strategies) in combination with narcissistic vulnerability (entitlement with low self-esteem, experience of helplessness, emptiness, and shame when narcissistic needs are not met), is also related to ludus love style, characterized by immature love, game-playing, promiscuity, and short-term mating without deep commitment,” Dinić explained.

Those who scored higher on the ludus love style tended to agree with statements such as “I try to keep my lover a little uncertain about my commitment to him/her” and “I have sometimes had to keep two of my lovers from finding out about each other.”

The researchers also found that “grandiose and communal narcissism (presenting oneself as a saint with superior helpfulness, kindness, and caring for others and the world in general) is related to agape love style, a self-view as a person who sacrifices and cares for the partner, but also to pragma style, which refers to logical and calculated love and choosing a partner based on practicality reasons (e.g., good origin, salary),” Dinić told PsyPost.

But narcissistic individuals might overreport traits they believe are viewed positively, which is why the researchers believe that future studies on the topic should include partner reports.

“One major caveat is that results are based on self-perceptions that may not correspond to real outcomes, given that persons with higher narcissism overestimate their characteristics. However, the results reflect different forms of self-enhancement in narcissism types and could contribute to a better understanding of intimate partner dynamics,” Dinić said.

The study, “Shades of narcissistic love: Relations between narcissism dimensions and love styles“, was authored by Bojana M. Dini ́and Anđelka Jovanovi.